Hollywood celebs’ Indian connections

Updated: Oct 19, 2010, 11:48 AM IST

Tanu Talwar

Paris might be hailed as the global romantic city, making one go weak in the knees, but India, it seems, isn’t far behind and is fast catching up to become the world’s love hub. When it comes to making people fall in love, India, with its cultural heritage and heritage buildings-turned-hotels triggers an effect that makes one rapt with love and passion.

There is something about our country, and it’s much more than just the eternal symbol of Taj Mahal, that makes Hollywood celebrities so love-smitten that they can’t fight the urge to take the plunge. Sealing their commitment by entering matrimony, western celebrity couples have time and again returned to India in search for spirituality, love et al.

And no we are no Las Vegas, where couples in a moment of revelry and alcohol induced emotions go wild and tie the knot in an inebriated state. Away from the hustle-bustle and constant paparazzi scare, India offers a secluded and secure ground to these celebs living frantic lifestyles.

So, with Katy Perry and Russell Brand tying the knot in Rajasthan on October 23 with the exotic Taj Rambagh Palace hotel serving as the fairy-tale like background, here’s looking at the famous international celebrities who came to our land looking for peace, love and God.

1. Katy Perry and Russell Brand: The acclaimed Hollywood couple, Katy and Russell, first came to India in December 2009. It’s said, that it was here that the two fell madly in love and decided to give up their wild antics to embrace a more settled lifestyle. And Brand made sure he proposed his lady in the most romantic way possible.

Under the stars in the garden lit by candles, Brand proposed Perry while sitting on an elephant at the Taj Rambagh Palace hotel. One year later, they are back again to take the plunge and marry at the same venue where the two exchanged commitment vows.

2. Julia Roberts: This Hollywood sweetheart is by far one of the most frequent visitors to India. And even though Roberts’ recent visit raised much noise, owing to its professional nature that required tight security, she is otherwise known for keeping a low profile during her visits to the country. The actress has confessed to be spellbound by Indian traditions and is often accompanied by her photographer husband and three kids during her visits.

What’s more is that Roberts disclosed in a recent interview that she is practicing Hinduism. The actress is a self-confessed devotee of Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji). And it’s stated that a picture of Neem Karoli Baba drew Roberts to Hinduism.

3. Arun Nayar and Elizabeth Hurley: Call it Arun Nayar’s Indian lineage or Liz Hurley’s wish to have a lavish Indian wedding but you had to be deaf to ignore the gossip surrounding Indian business tycoon’s wedding with the British sex siren. Married at Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur in traditional Hindu way, Liz Hurley and Nayar’s wedding ruled headlines for days that followed the grand celebrations.

And just like any other Indian wedding, this couple too had a series of functions and ceremonies leading up to the wedding. There was an elaborate ‘sangeet’ at Nagaur Fort and a reception at Mehrangarh Fort with a score of Hollywood celebrities in attendance. What’s more is that the wedding ceremonies photos were sold to Hello! magazine for a whopping £2 million.

4. Richard Gere: Gere in his capacity as a Board of Director for Healing the Divide, an organization that supports global initiatives to promote peace, justice and understanding has made several visits to India. The actor cum activist is known for spearheading several campaigns for raising AIDS awareness. So committed is Gere to his charity work in India, that in 1999 he created the Gere Foundation India Trust to support a variety of humanitarian programmes in India.

5. Mischa Barton: Going through a personal turmoil and fighting depression, Mischa Barton was left awe-struck by India. And in her own words, “Hyderabad, India --is truly amazing. I am glad I had an opportunity to work in such an unbelievable place. I love being able to experience different cultures and lifestyles by exploring my surroundings as much as I possibly can.”

6. John Lennon: John Lennon and his Beatle band-mates George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney’s fascination with India is known to one and all. The group at a time of internal crisis had turned to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi as their guru. At his ashram in Rishikesh, India, a three-month ‘Guide Course’ became one of their most creative periods, yielding a large number of songs including most of the thirty recorded for the album. Nevertheless, their spiritual journey to India was marred by a controversy that made the group question the practice of following a spiritual guru.

7. Goldie Hawn: Hollywood classic beauty Goldie Hawn too has embraced the Indian culture and philosophy since 1972. The actress is known for practicing Buddhism and has also raised her children in both Buddhist and Jewish traditions. And it was in India that she was drawn to Buddhism. Now as a ritual, Hawn travels to India annually and is seen meditating on several religious sites across the country.